Off to school.

All parents, whether their kids learn at home or in a classroom, should lean hard on God’s grace. Because though our details might differ, God calls every one of us to sacrificial love through our family lives. And that’s not likely to come easy to any of us.”  -Danielle Bean

I so appreciate these words from Danielle.  She especially speaks to my heart this week.  Like many of you, I’ve wrestled with the possibility of homeschooling my young brood.  I have my Masters in Teaching, for crying out loud, so it’s funny that the subject is even an issue.  Yet it is.

So you may be surprised to know on Tuesday we sent my oldest off to kindergarten.  That day he began a schooling journey many of us have before and one that will continue for thirteen plus years (wow!)  Boy, did that day bring back memories for me.  And subsequently caused me to shake in my boots, wondering if we had really made the right decision sending him to school rather than teaching him at home.  We may have to wait until heaven to know the answer to that one.

But I do know one thing, I’m clinging to God’s grace this week as much as I would be if I were homeschooling.  The week has actually been rather draining, even with one less child.  Why?  Because I’m a mother and mothering takes work.  The sacrificial love never ends.  Depending on how you look at it, I’ve just sent my most responsible, most capable child off packing, leaving me with the three most needy ones back home!!  ha!  God did bless our time together immensely, though.  I had more time to devote to each child.  I saw a relationship forming between my middle boys that was stronger and more personal than before.  My second child, more sweet and passive by nature, was able to be a leader and help conduct play.  His overall obedience and compliance seemed to be much improved as a result.  Affirmation.

As my older son returned from school each day, I also noticed subtle improvements in his behavior.  He’s a little more considerate of his brothers and friends, a little more humbled by the world outside our front door, a little more refined than the boy I saw at the beginning of the week.  Affirmation once more.

Will this decision always be right?  Not necessarily.  In fact, tonight at dinner, he commented to me, “Mom, I want to stay home for college, okay?  I don’t think I want to go to Notre Dame.  It’s too far away.”  (lol–to his father’s chagrin!)  But for now this is where we are and at this point, God’s grace has never been more apparent… or more necessary.

  • Kat

    B, he’s adorable, it must have been so hard to say good-bye that first day! I do love seeing how younger children change when an older child goes off to school – many different parts of their personalities come out, which is neat to see as a parent. In our house, the re-entry in the afternoon can be tough – Maria goes nuts when Christopher gets home! I think she’s afraid that Christopher is going to take all of her toys or tell her that she can’t watch a video or something :)

  • JMB

    What a cutie! My oldest just started high school this week. I posted a picture on my FB page of my husband tying his tie for him. I started to cry! It was only 9 short years ago (and I only remember this because 9/11 fell on his 2nd day of school) that he began kindergarten.nSchool is wonderful – his journey was my journey too. We made so many new friends through him. We truly became part of our parish community through the school, and although we don’t send any of our other children to the parish school anymore, we are still friends with quite a lot of the parents of our son’s friends. Best wishes – God is good.

  • KMommy

    It would be interesting to hear the reasons behind each of the Builders’ decisions about schooling–why have some of you chosen to homeschool and others chosen to send your kids to public (or parochial?) school.

  • Mary Alice

    He is so precious! I agree about sending off your oldest — people ask me if it is hard to homeschool, but my life would not be easier without Peter and Holly around the house! Still, we don’t choose something because it is hard or easy for us, we have to do what is best for the family. It sounds like you and GG have carefully discerned this school choice and I hope he has a great year!

  • Anonymous

    B-mama, what you mention is so true in our case as well. My younger children flourish uniquely when the pecking order is changed and my oldest is away at school. I am so happy that I can provide the younger two with more attention and autonomy. We are more peaceful, and we take things more at their speed, because my oldest is (goodnaturedly) extremely chatty and mature and fast-moving and intense. And my oldest is so social that school time meets a huge emotional need for her. I felt like a pressure bubble burst for us on so many fronts when she went off to our little classical Catholic school nearby. Granted, our school is the absolute ideal as far as we can see–we are so blessed.) We never looked back. This year, we are homeschooling because we’re traveling for the year, and I find that homeschooling her DOES provide all the objective goods of homeschooling–it’s efficient, I get to know her learning-related strengths and weaknesses. But otherwise it’s quite draining for our relationship, I am more stressed and anxious and self-doubting, she is more intense and needy, and it takes its toll on the younger kids and the peacefulness of our family life.You all have taught me that it’s OK to take it one year at a time, based on what’s unique about each child. That’s so true! And we’re blessed to live in America where we have so many good options along the education spectrum. I get the feeling that, here in England, education is highly polarized between secular/postmodern indoctrination (even in Catholic school) and total isolation (the very few who homeschool).

  • Tess

    That’s great that he’s in Kindergarten and already knows Notre Dame is on the table for college options. As a current ND student, I approve! Hopefully he’ll change his mind and agree to go here after all!

  • B-mama

    KMommy, to answer your question from our end, we thankfully had the luxury of choosing from among a really excellent, close (300m from our front door) public elementary school, a faraway excellent parish Catholic school, or homeschooling. As our schooling dialogue continued over the past 5 years, both my husband and I began to feel strongly about the good effect school had on all of us. nnMy older two children seem to “perform” into good habits while in the care of others. My oldest is such an intense child that time apart has done worlds of good for our relationship. My next oldest (who I mentioned in the post) needs the influence of teachers not to shy away from participation. Around us he is most vulnerable and weak, which prevents him from discovering his strengths and talents. Not to mention, I am an extreme extrovert and thrive helping in classrooms rather than having the classroom in my home. Not to say, though, I wouldn’t sacrifice this quality of mine to homeschool if it were the best choice for any of my children!nnSchool seemed like the right fit for all of us, so we chose to go easy on ourselves with the proximate, fabulous public elem. school. We are also doing homeschool catechesis through a program called FIRE, offered through our parish. We’ve linked up with another family and start this fall– can’t wait! We plan to take everything one year at a time, one child at a time, like Juris Mater and all of the Builders. With a heapful of God’s grace, we’ll make it to graduation! :)

    • Mary Alice

      B-Mama said “I am an extreme extrovert and thrive helping in classrooms rather than having the classroom in my home”nnI think that this is an interesting part of the homeschooling decision — mom’s temperament — I did not thrive as a parochial school mom and was not a good advocate for my child in that environment, academically or socially, but I ROCK as a homeschool mom, I am a gifted teacher in a one on one setting, and I am totally fulfilled by providing this sort of education for my children. I have also read so much about non-traditional schooling that it would be hard for me to stomach some of the normal parts of school, such as homework for kindergarten.nnThen, kids temperaments come in, my oldest needed an hour alone each afternoon to recover from school, so playdates or the park were difficult for him after school. Now that he is homeschooled, he is actually MORE social, because he has a better balance of alone time and then when the neighbors get home from school he is ready to play!nnLastly, we have grade-placement issues because all of my kids have 4th quarter birthdays, it is so hard to decide what grade to put them in. Homeschooling, we can be flexible about this, we started Kindergarten work last January when the twins were 5 1/2.nnRed is an extrovert and so is her oldest, they have chosen to homeschool because it is the best schooling option they have, but they find a local co-op (like one day of school a week) to be an integral part of their homeschooling. Everyone has to find their own balance.nnDiscerning all of this while talking with friends can be helpful but also complicated, we expose each other to new ideas but at times some of us have felt pressured by the others’ decisions. I am so proud of the way we have grown as mothers and friends that we have the confidence now to discuss all of this without being defensive or putting each other on the defense. Part of this comes from doing it, now that the children are in school, it is not just theoretical, so we can see what is really working for our families.nnJM, I think that your family will profit from this year of experimenting with homeschooling, you will know your children well and, if convinced that it is NOT for you, you will be more open and flexible about your school choices, overlook minor inconveniences to make something work. I could not overlook minor things, I think in part because in my heart I knew that we were supposed to be homeschooling.nnB, your background in teaching will help you to understand and communicate well with the teachers and work with them in educating your children, and also to tell the difference between minor problems and major ones that require a change.nnGod bless us all, parenting is complicated stuff!

      • JMB

        Thanks Mary Alice for your comment. I like to hear about moms who love to homeschool and don’t complain about it like it is some sort of sacrifice that they must endure in order to get to heaven. The older I get (I’m pushing 44) the less tolerance I have for the non stop complainers. They are in all walks of life – there are many that I encounter every day – at church, at my children’s school or sitting on the sidelines at soccer games. Nothing is ever good enough for them, or their kids. I think if something makes you joyful and you ROCK at it – you should be doing it, and more importantly, you are most likely doing it well! Rock on!nI totally get your grade placement thing – I have two late summer birthdays.

      • Anonymous

        Mom’s temperament is an important part of the decision to homeschool/not-homeschool. It should not, however, be the only consideration. MaryAlice was correct in saying that both me and my oldest daughter (Gianna) are very extroverted. Gianna thrives in social environments, and I also love being out of the house with my kids! So I’m an extroverted mom with an extroverted kid who is successfully homeschooling. It has it’s challenges, and I’m sure introverted kids and moms have their own set of challenges. nnOur decision to homeschool was largely academic. It is a decision that is re-evaluated every year, and at some point our children will attend school. The more I researched education of elementary-aged children, the more convinced I became that home-schooling was academically superior to most school choices (much to my chagrin!). Since we do not have a great Catholic school in our area, the decision was clearer. The freedom of a homeschooling curriculum really is amazing academically. It it very time effecient and provides my children with plenty of time to do other important things (like learn the piano, audition for a show, lots of outdoor play and real science, etc.). nnMy temperament was a big concern, and as MaryAlice mentioned, a regular and well-organized co-op one day a week is essential to my sanity! Social networking with other homeschoolers is as important for me as it is for an extroverted mom to be involved in their local school. Making the effort to develop this network allows me to socialize with other homeschooling mothers, and my kids have met some great friends. I have also followed the advice of other seasoned homeschooling extroverted mothers and taken full advantage of our summers (lots of camps and out of the home experiences for my kids). This past summer Gianna auditioned for a local production of Seussical Jr., and her days were filled with 6-8 hour long rehearsals. She absolutely LOVED the experience, an experience that would not have been possible at her age if she were going to school.nnDuring our school year, we spend almost everyday participating in some activity (piano lessons, swimming lessons, soccer practice and chorus!), and I realize my children would not be able to have this sort of activity schedule if they were in school. Unfortunately, it does put a lot of pressure on me to get them to all these things in the afternoon, but I really enjoy the time out of our home, and my kids do too. In this way I feel we are getting the best of both worlds (academic and social) but the big concern is always mom burn-out. I feel a lot of pressure to get out of the house, and this can be hard too!nnEvery family is different, and so is every child. While I do believe a homeschool curriculum is superior academically, I do not think it is for everyone! In fact, I have encouraged several women not to homeschool because of their circumstances. Homeschooling, like many things in life is a calling. A calling with it’s own struggles and rewards.

  • Anonymous

    Another factor that B-mama alluded to is Mom’s school experience and attraction to school life. Although my education wasn’t top-notch, I absolutely loved the school environment. I loved the social element (learning how to interact with large groups of non-likeminded peers, learning how to win over the teachers), I thrived in the competitive environment, the daily routine of going to school and the structure within school kept me orderly and sane. I was sad when summer started each year because I missed being in school–not so much the learning component as just being there. Now, as a mother, I love interacting in my child’s school environment in a similar way–socializing with the families in that natural family setting, working with the teachers, having very concrete benchmarks for my children, and I also love love love getting up and out each morning and being expected somewhere, seeing loads of friends at the 8am school Mass then for 8:30am drop-off, escorting my daughter into a beautiful little Catholic learning environment where she greets her friends–it’s the best thing that’s happened to my daily spirits as a mom. And I recognize that’s such an individual thing!nnAs far as I can tell, my oldest daughter is like I was with school, and my 4 year old boy is the exact opposite. So she is in school, and he will learn at home until he’s ready.nnSchool involvement is no less of a calling than homeschooling is for a mother and for the family–everything we undertake is for the love and service of God, to light the world ablaze for Him.

  • Anonymous

    B-Mama,nnThat picture is adorable, and praise God your first week went so well! We are all leaning on God’s grace quite a bit this week, aren’t we! Here’s to a great school year for us all!

    • B-mama

      Thanks Red! Yes, praise God for a good first week!! Let’s hope there are many more to come for all of us… Now I just have to make it through my first MOPS meeting as head honcho tomorrow night and I’m golden. Pray for me!!

  • KMommy

    Thank you so much for your honest evaluations on what is best for your children and yourselves in schooling. We started talking about our different options before our first was on the way–he’s almost 3 now–and it’s very helpful to see what others have decided and why. :) I know we have time yet to see where God is leading us.

    • Mary Alice

      K, I also want to add that this is an ongoing evaluation — the needs of the child, the family and the mother change over time, so I think that when we make a decision, to put a child in preschool, for example, we can relax a bit and think of it as giving it a try — we will learn a lot. I changed schools as a child and while I think that was a tough decision for my parents I am so thankful that they kept evaluating even after I was in school. They had not made a mistake, I am so thankful for my elementary school, but my needs had changed.


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